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You Call This A Deathbed?

Dad's neighbor down the street. You might have heard of it? Mar-a-Lago?
***

by Skip Hunter

I saw my father today. Step-father. Ex-step-father. Weldon Osborne Hunter. I called and left a message last night. And then again this morning.

He calls and says,
- This is Hunter returning your call.

This is starting off well.

I say,
- This is Hunter receiving your call.
- Who is this?
- This is Skip.
- Who are you?
- I used to be your son.

Jesus, has his mind melted?
- Scott? Is this Scott?
- Yea.

I've only been Skip since the 1980's.

- It didn't sound like you.
- It's me alright.
- Well, it's been a couple of years since we've talked.
- Try ten. Almost eleven.

I drive the one hour north to see him in fabulously wealthy Palm Beach, get lost so almost 2 hours later I have to pee so bad I'm dancing when I get out of the car for new directions, can't be bothered to put on shoes and dance into a green puddle of antifreeze and broken glass. A stranger tries to help with his map but it's soaked in oil and barely readable. The glass works its way farther into the meat of my sole. I'm feeling extremely annoyed. Just turn around, go to the beach, take a day off, why bother with this asshole ex-father anyway? I call Weldon and we talk over each other

- Did you go east on Okeechobee?
+ Are you south of the airport?
- I told you to go west!
+ Just answer me that, are you north or south of the airport?
- Just listen to me...
+ You listen, I'm ALREADY on that street, which way do I go?
- NO, you're not...

Weldon wins and gets me to shut up first.

I'm thinking,
That right there used up half my patience allowance I'm giving you today buddy.

Buddy is a good term men use for other guys, kinda neutral but can turn quickly if needed, you're not really invested in being nice. I'm not feeling nice with Weldon. He robbed my Mom in the divorce, I feel used and manipulated… WAIT a minute. I'm here to pay my respects. The man is dying of cancer, he was your father, get over your petty shit. I'm annoyed because I don't know what I want from him.

There's a space right in front but instead I park the car a half block away. What am I doing, why am I doing this... I'm embarrassed! Why? Why do I care? Is it because my brother Mark just bought a $60,000 BMW sports car? And my sister Carey is director of a multimillion-dollar environmental agency? And I'm the black sheep since our brother Richard OD'd on heroin a million years ago?

It is painfully obvious, looking at this car, the touring Theater Troupe’s car, with 2 huge trunks strapped on top with ratty tarps wrapped around them, and the stained pillow in the back, that this car is not driven by a resident of fabulously wealthy Palm Beach. Or by the well-off and successful son of a resident of Palm Beach. This car is either lost or a black sheep's car. This much is painfully obvious. Why do I care? Weldon always brings this out in me. At least it's not MY personal car, all rusted out and still smelling like the dog that puked in the back seat.


Theater troupe car
***

I walk up to the huge iron gates and see “HUNTER 03,” push the buttons, compose myself, look for a camera, push the buttons again, push the stupid... Oh. Then I read the sign telling me to push the hashtag #, THEN the buttons. Okay fuck you, here's your hashtag # sign. Here's my hashtag # of flesh, what else do you want from me? Lighten UP dude. You're just saying goodbye here, it's not the OK Corral.

A tinny
- Yes? from the box.
- It's me.

Do I have to say my name again? I don't want to. I want him to guess who I am. Why do I get satisfaction out of this? Why do I think I do when I really don't?

- Is that you SCott?
- Yea

No, it's Skip, you fucking moron.

I really want is to say
- It's me.
And have him say
- I recognize your voice, oh my long lost son Skip, I miss you, I love you.
Okay, admittedly, that would freak me out.

Instead, he says
- Stay right there. I'll come get you, we're late.
The gate clicks and opens.

'We're late.' I know what that means. You blame me. It was your fault with your shitty directions. We're late. What are we late for?, we're eleven years late, how late is that?, you're almost the LATE great Weldon.

I walk into this courtyard of the fabulously wealthy. Okay, it's nice but it's not THAT nice. Ha! Look at that fountain, see what I mean? Cheesy! What's that supposed to be, Michelangelo’s David posing as Venus Rising in a fountain? Typical inferiority complex of the nouveau riche, the desire to possess foreign culture through wealth. I mean that thing probably cost $8,000 while the tasteful Virgin de Guadalupe in MY house only cost $40. And it looks better, so there. I win and he doesn't even know we're competing.

I stand in the middle of the courtyard waiting. I'm crossing my arms, I'm stronger than he is at least. Look, I can bulge out my muscles surreptitiously. No. I'll stand like Steven Seagal with hands crossed in front. No, it looks like I'm protecting my balls. What is taking him so long? I start to walk forward and he comes out catching me un-posed and I halfway go back to the Hulk Hogan arm thing with a Steven Seagal ball protector thrown in as well.

I'm caught but I've done nothing wrong.

I can't take this all in, who is this old guy? Where's my dad? He's not my dad, I mean where's Weldon, what do I call him anyway? I've written him hundreds of letters in my head over the last decade, a few of them made it to paper, none of them sent. Most started with Dear Weldon, some with Dear Dad, a few with Dear Ex-Father or Dear Asshole or even Hey Fuckface just to get the blood moving. We meet at yet another iron gate, this one only 5 feet high.

- Oh my god! We can't go out with you dressed like that!
- What are you talking about?
- Well, I uh, assumed you'd be wearing a suit.
- Ha, I haven't worn a suit since I got married.

You weren't there because you weren't invited and the next time you see me wearing a suit will be when you're floating over your own casket. I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt I made with a Persian prayer on it:

'O God!
Purify My Heart
Illumine My Powers'

What was I thinking? That he'll read it? Well, it's clean and new and not too wrinkled, this is dressed up for me. Why would I get dressed up anyway? I thought he was dying. Do you dress up for that? Where's the nurse, the IV stand? We're standing on opposite sides of the fence, staring at each other, big iron bars in the way. I could get used to this. I imagine him in a bright orange jumpsuit with numbers on it.
- Well. Hello.
And he sticks his hand over the top of the 5 foot high iron fence. We shake. Once, and let go. Well, that takes care of the 'what to do if he tries to hug me' problem. Maybe we'll just do the whole visit like this. This is easier than I thought. But he opens the gate and leads me in.

- Take a look around. I'll give you the tour later. I'll get us something to eat.
- Okay.

Typical imported Italian marble foyer, check. Guest book, check, which is a weirdly Floridian thing to have. Do people actually have guests sign in anywhere else in the world? Oh shit. Look at that. There's all Mom's art. But it's all squashed together, and the grand piano is crammed in a corner and looks uncomfortable. Granted, it was mostly for show when Mom decorated but occasionally someone would bang something out for a sing-along at a party but no one could even get IN there and sit down. There's the life size bronze wolf, stunning piece, always loved that wolf. My sister Carey and I used to go to NMU and they had a wolf compound near campus where Carey would go to howl with the wolves. Mom knows the artist in Michigan, only 4 pieces ever made, 3 in museums and this one… looking like he doesn’t belong here, there’s stuff crowding him on both sides, he looks claustrophobic, he needs his space, he needs the open tundra man. To roam wild and free!
He looks stolen. By someone who wants good art but couldn’t pick it himself.

- Anything look familiar?
- Yea, all of it. Except that one, that's new... A big pink and blue monstrosity.

Christmas was hell in the Hunter family. Nobody liked anything anybody else gave them. Mark gave me red underwear once with Jingle Balls written on them. Carey gave me a ceramic pot, it had dirt on the inside, did she get it at a garage sale? The last Christmas ever, Weldon was all nervous and excited because he had a BIG present for Mom. It was all wrapped up and about 4 feet high. She didn’t even want to open it. Mom hates surprises.

- I told you what I wanted for Christmas.
- I thought you’d like this. Open it.
- I don’t want to open it, it’s not what I asked for.
- Alright, I’LL open it.

And he does, with tight lips, ripping away the rolls and rolls of green and red paper to expose the shiny brass… what is it? Like a giant stork or something.

- Oh god, I just knew it. Why would you think I would like that? Why would anyone like that? You like it because it’s big and shiny? What’s wrong with you?
- Don’t talk to me like that!


Gold makes it look richy rich, right? Just add gold.
***

Tacky. I could see her thinking that. That was Mom’s worst epithet. I’m married to a tacky man with tacky taste.

- I think I'll come in the kitchen with you while you cook. So are you married?
This is a weird question to ask your dad.
- No, Not That I'm Aware Of. Ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha.
Oh yeah, I remember this. This is one of Weldon's Sayings. I know he's got a bunch of them and I wonder if he could have an entire conversation only using his Famous Sayings. Hell, he could have an entire relationship based on his Famous Sayings. I don't ha-ha. I don't think he notices.
- These pizzas are really good, you'll like it. You want a salad too?
- Sure. Who's on the fridge?
- That's Patricia.
- Is she your girlfriend?
- She was, she's dead.
- I'm so sorry.
- It was over a year ago.
- How long were you together?
- 10 years.

He had a whole life I didn't ever see.

- You look happy there.
- We were. I've got a picture of you too. Upstairs.
- Yea?
- You and Richard with the Governor.
- Oh yeah, I remember that. I was a little kid.
- Still have it. It's on the wall.

He has a picture of me on the wall? I thought I was 'out of sight, out of mind'. Well, maybe it's because it's got Richard in it. Weldon loved Richard even though Richard disappointed him more than I ever could. Mom was pissed after they got married. Weldon wooed her, swept her off her feet, moved her into a house in the Detroit suburbs with us kids and then disappeared for the first 2 years of their marriage to go work in Lansing as a politician. He had an apartment there, came home Friday nights, left Sunday. I don't remember seeing him. He spent weekends with Mark and Richard. I can only imagine the resentment that built up between them. I poked around his desk when I was little and wondered about the little cartoons he'd cut out of Playboy and taped up. They were all sexy cockteaser and frustrated men cartoons. I liked the big tits and buns. One woman had a sign on her breasts: 'If you even THINK about touching these, I get a headache!'

Mom resented him but she still loved him, stayed 28 years, though the last 12 were toxic. She couldn’t just leave him though without a good excuse, not even for being tacky. She told me she would always introduce him to her single girlfriends and hope something would happen.
- MOM!
- I know.

Weldon's talking about the pizzas, he really likes them. This is old man bachelor food. I feel sad. Then I feel happy that he's cooking. He's 80. He cooks everyday. So what if it's frozen cardboard pizzas; he cooks more than I do.

- What would you like to drink? I've got OJ, tea, milk, skim or 2% or water.
- 2%, why do YOU have 2%?
- I like it in my tea.

He used to bludgeon us kids with facts about cholesterol. We hated skim milk, he wouldn't allow us to drink anything else. I was 5 years old, what did I care about cholesterol? And this was in the 1960's!

I ask him about the cancer. It's one of the six types of leukemia, the most benign kind you can get. He doesn't even have any symptoms yet. I'm EARLY if I wanted to catch him on his deathbed. I heard the word leukemia from Carey and freaked because that's what my wife Susan died of. Makes me see IV stands, morphine drips, bald heads and swollen bellies. I was going to kneel at his bedside, read something inspirational to him. If we really connected I could pat his palsied hand and dab at his brow maybe with a cloth. I decided that I was not going to change his bedpan or wipe him. I would dial 911 if needed, I wasn’t going to let him die on my shift.

- I think George Bush is doing a fine job as president.

Is this his idea of a conversational gambit or is he trying to start a fight?

I thought he'd be having some kind of spiritual renewal right about now. Like my grandma Dewie had. Now, Dewie hated Weldon and was the only one in our family that would never hide her true feelings. With Dewie, she let it all hang out. We loved each other passionately. When Dewie got cancer she got all interested in the afterlife and spirituality. She’d smoke dope and giggle. She had me bring her Shirley MacLaine books.

- Does that HORSESHOE in your ear mean anything special?
- No.
Waaait a minute! Does he think I'm gay because I have an earring? I don't think he's had his spiritual awakening yet.

He's telling me all about his swollen foot, he's got vein things going on. Takes a blood thinner. Still plays tennis, lots of bridge.
- So you're in the entertainment business I hear!
- I'm doing theater. We're on tour doing 2 shows.
I know where this is going. He doesn't want to know about the shows. Or the Persian prayer. He's not going to read your shirt.
- So when are you going to be on Broadway?
- I'm not really doing that kind of theater. It's original pieces, physical theater, different movement styles.
I'm not explaining this very well to him. And I don't care. When can we talk about the important stuff? Have we laid enough groundwork here yet? Or could we actually go all the way through this without talking about IT?

- So… nobody can understand what you're doing?
- No, it's not that, it's just that, let's just say it's not for the masses.
- Well, I hope you're going to Hollywood at least. With all those bad actors I see in the movies, you're bound to make something of yourself there.
- I'm not going to Hollywood.
- Well, I'm sure you could if you tried.

What is that? Is that a compliment? Or is he saying '…you could if you tried but obviously, you're not trying.' Is he saying '…you could if you tried. The acting is so bad even you could get work'?

I consider trying to make him understand, telling him that it's like a guy who heats up frozen pizzas showing up to cook at Le Cirque restaurant in New York. No, it's not like that at all, bad example. Why do I need to defend myself? Actually I don't have to explain anything because he's not listening anymore anyway. He's telling me he loves these pizzas. Takes a blood thinner. I'm seeing a pattern here.

The “entertainment business”... Well, I'm making a hundred bucks a week on this tour. I believe this is considered to be a success in this business... in Burma. A fine country where a hundred bucks goes a long way. Yes, in Burma, I myself have had a very fine shave by lantern light. The barber used a straight razor and a strop. After the shave he gave me a full body acupressure massage. All this and 96 dollars change back from my hundred. A man can live well and be considered a success by his father earning that kind of money... in Burma.


Important moments need important words.
***

I want to tell him something. Something important. Something worth waiting 11 years for. Neil Armstrong didn't just step out of that space pod and improvise on the spot, he knew it was an important moment, he thought of good shit to say, he'd been planning it for a long time, probably practiced in front of the mirror even. "This is a tiny step. No. One itty-bitty step for man. No, that's not quite it..."

I came here to see him on his deathbed, pay my respects, find out what really happened between us, forgive him, thank him for two big things he did in my life and say goodbye. Get on with it.

- Now what was I doing? If I Knew What I Was Doing, I Wouldn't Be Doing It! Ha-ha
ha-ha ha-ha.
Ah! There’s another Famous Saying from my childhood. I’ve asked people about this, about their dads, their Famous Sayings. They all have Sayings that make sense repeated over and over. Like ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’ and ‘Nose to the Grindstone’. Things like that. ‘If I Knew What I Was Doing, I Wouldn't Be Doing It’?! What kind of message is that to drill into a kid’s malleable mind? It’s an invitation to the unconscious is what it is. Go ahead, take over my body, make me do things I don’t know about, put my mind to sleep and commit unspeakable acts!

I like watching him putter around the kitchen cleaning up. If I forget who he is for a minute he’s… he’s kinda cute. He's got liver spots on his face. His hair is white, really white. He’s careful, that ‘old man careful’ so he won’t drop stuff. He looks so different at 80 than he did at 69. He's not as aggressive and overbearing. He's dating but doesn't trust women. I tell him I understand. I tell him Luna and I are divorced.

- She take all your money?
- Ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha.

Why is this funny to us both?
- I know how to ask the right questions, don't I? Do you want more OJ?
I pick up the carton and he tells me
- Give it to me, I'll shake it first.
- I got it.
- HERE, I'll do it.
- I GOT it.

His hands are hovering in the space between us. I try to screw the top on. I can't line the threads up. I push harder, try to cram it on with brute strength, while he watches every move I make. My whole world shrinks to the threads on the top and the threads on the carton.
-You've got to line the threads up.

I don't want to do this more than I don't want to do almost anything I can consider doing.

When we moved into Weldon's house for us after he married my Mom, I was the new kid at school. The cool kids tested me.
'What's heavier? A ton of feathers or a ton of lead?'
It's a trick question, right? Or is it? Think fast! You can’t screw this up. It’ll follow you. ‘There's that kid that didn't know about the feathers.’
Then there were the tests where you knew what the right answer was supposed to be and had to say it or you were ‘a faggot.’
“What would you rather do:
A. slide down a 50 foot razor blade bare naked
OR
B. suck the snot out of a dead nigger's nose?”
NO ONE ever said B. You had to say A.
I grew up on lose-lose ethics. Would you rather:
A. Weldon yanks the OJ out of your hands
OR
B. FAIL at lining the threads up?

Weldon wants it, he wants to take it from me, his hands are still RIGHT THERE IN THE AIR.
- Now turn it upside down and shake it a couple times.

I am purposely not looking at him. Now I am hoping that I DID fail to line the threads up and orange juice pulp squirts out the poorly threaded top into the air and on his suit. Turning it bright orange just like in my fantasy; all I’ll need is those iron bars and I can just whip out a stencil to put some numbers on him for his trip to the Big House for robbing Mom. Instead I shake shake. Because he told me to.
- THERE you go.
He turns away. I have done it right. I am now allowed to pour OJ.

- Come on, I'll take you for a tour. This is the house I sold on the beach.

Ah yes.
The house.
- This is it, the one you sold to Don King the boxing promoter with the hairdo?
- I hired a helicopter to get that shot.
- This is the house that got you divorced.
I like the sound of that. I can be biting if I want. That was sharp and biting.
- Well, I don’t know if it was that simple.
- It was the last straw, I’ll tell you that.
Weldon had gone out and bought the land, designed it HIMSELF, hired an architect, drew up the blueprints and then whammo! surprised Mom with the whole package.

Mom HATES surprises.
Mom HATES tacky.
And Mom ALWAYS designed and decorated the houses, that was HER job in the marriage. It was 14,000 square feet, with a full size ballroom. Oceanfront, with Greek and Roman and Southern Antebellum features, an architectural Frankenstein. She finally had a big enough reason to leave him after 28 years.

Weldon’s place is very ordered and neat except for boxes of photos and mementos here and there in the hallways. And then we're in his bedroom. I expected a multi-millionaire's bedroom to be more… palatial. Half the floor is covered with these boxes of stuff.

- Wow, are you just moving in?
- I'm still getting settled as you can see.
- How long have you lived here?
- About 2 years. I moved over from The Trump Towers. The ceilings were too low over there, felt like I was living in a box.

There's his old desk in the corner! I’m perversely drawn to poke around and see if he still has Playboy cartoons taped up.


Dad watching his bill getting signed into law.
***

In the study is the photo from my childhood with Richard and the Governor of Michigan. I remember this. But not like this. I don't know what's wrong, maybe it's like when you go back to a childhood home or the playground and everything looks smaller. Something's different about it in my mind. There's me looking doofy and Richard looking impossibly young. He was so cool, so unreachable, he seemed so much older. Now they just call it heroin chic. Mark and Richard lived with us summers and came over a lot on weekends after Weldon moved back to Detroit with us. It was cool to hang out in the big boys' room when they let me. Richard didn't mind if I flipped through his porno mags. They made a big impression on me. He liked the off-brand ones, kinda like True Detective with twisted sex stories and nudie shots. Airbrushed of course. I'd turn those magazines upside down and all around. I didn't get it, the female anatomy thing. I think airbrushing may be responsible for widespread confusion in 2 entire generations of males. I wanted to educate myself, but there was a dearth of information. I inherited Richard's pornos after he died. Alright, I stole them.

Weldon talked to me once about sex, once in my entire life. He walked into the TV room when I was 15 carrying Richard's off-brand pornos.
- I don't EVER want to see these again.
He threw them down on the floor next to me and walked out.
O-okay. So I'll hide them better next time, jeez!

We're walking by a box of photos in a hallway and there it is again! The photo of me and Richard and the Governor of Michigan! It's all curled and old looking. I spent half my childhood looking at this photo.

- Hey, this is different!
- Yea, I had HIM taken out.
- You just took the guy out of the picture?
- I never liked him.
I don't say ‘Why didn't you just erase me too’? I run with it into the study to compare them. The politician Weldon never liked is just disappeared in the new one. Not only that, he moved the Governor over so I'm closer to him. I'm giddy, jumping around, waving the photo in the air. I yell to Weldon still in the hallway.
- You didn't like the guy so you just rewrote history!
I love this, I don't know why. I love that Weldon would do this. I don't dwell on the Orwellian nature of it. I love that he erased some guy he hated. But didn't erase me, it would've been so easy.
- I just took it in and the photo place did it.
I feel like I'm flying a kite, feeling the wind ripple the edges of the Real History photo as I run into the hallway.

- Those are my trophies.
A wall full of awards from the Republican party. Elephants and medals, that kind of thing. His business degree from Wayne State University. I feel proud of him for that. He went to night school for 10 years to get it. He was a bulldog, when he wanted something he got it. When he started his own business, he didn't have a client sign with him for the first 2 years. If he had an appointment coming to his office, he'd quick call Mom to come in and pretend to be his secretary. Nixon was sworn in when I was 11, Weldon was very happy after 8 years of Democrats. I told kids at school that I was a Republican. “Nixon is strong on foreign policy” I would say. I was always nervous that someone would say “What does that mean?” There's Weldon shaking hands with Eisenhower, shaking hands with Nixon, shaking hands with Ford, shaking hands with Reagan. This line-up scared me later on when I started thinking about politics in my teens.

We're perched at right angles to each other on his sofas. He chose to sit on the opposite side of the room, it wasn’t me. This far away the liver spots blend in and when I squint I can make his white hair look darker. This far away, he looks almost normal, the way I remember him. I have struggled my whole life to not be him. He barks and is demanding and aggressive and opinionated and right about most things and fundamentally wrong about lots of other things and has a terrible memory. I am way too much like him.

He tells me about his blood thinner.
I guess he's done with pizza talk for now.

- So, you’re staying? This is home?
What kind of inane question is that? I was thinking ‘So you’re dying here, in this place, in Palm Beach?’ and had already opened my mouth.
- I like it here. Palm Beach is a unique neighborhood.
- How's that?
- Everyone here is wealthy and retired. It's clean. West Palm Beach is across the water. All the blacks are over there. It's dirty, lots of crime. But, uh, being on this side of the bridge keeps them out. It’s not really a deterrent, but they’d look out of place so they don’t come over here.


When we read the final Final Will it turned out
that the fourth and last wife did some smoke and mirrors and millions just
d  i    s      a        p          p            e              a                r                e                    d
***

I have absolutely nothing to say to this.

Oh fuck, Neil Armstrong and his moonwalk and his perfect thing to say in the big moment. I’m running out of time here.
- When you came to visit me when I was living in Mexico, the only time you came just to visit me in my entire life, it was right after Mom had threatened you with divorce again, only this time she meant it and you were worried, remember? So you came to see the kids, what, to drum up support or something? To look like a good dad? You just called out of the blue and said “I’m coming to visit. For ten days.” We hadn’t ever talked for more than 10 minutes in years and you were staying for ten days! And then I thought we really connected, you really made an effort, I knew you were only doing it for Mom, trying to get her back, but when you left, you looked right at me and said
“I love you” right to my face. First and only time in my life.
- Now Skip, that wasn’t the first time, surely.
- The only time you ever said it straight to me in my life! I was stunned, couldn't even respond. And then you disappeared out of my life after that... for months! I guess you were busy getting divorced.
- I wondered why you wouldn't talk to me after that. I thought it was because I was closer to Carey.

Carey’s the only reason I’m here seeing Weldon. When I heard he was seeing Carey, when she got ovarian cancer, that was the first time I felt he had a heart. After I cut him out of my life. I like the sound of that. It's so decisive. I cut him out of my life, like a tumor.

- No, it had nothing to do with Carey. I felt pulled between you and Mom when you got divorced. I had a copy of your financial records from when we were going to do that real estate thing that turned out to be illegal outside of Florida so I knew where all your money was. Mom's lawyer called me and wanted that document because you were hiding millions from her and robbing her in the divorce settlement. I didn’t know what to do so I burned it.
- Now Skip, that's just not true. I didn't make any real money until I sold that house to Don King.

Liar. Liar, pants on fire. Millions squirreled away. I was so torn between his love and his greed that I burned my copy of his financial record. We both know he’s lying. Why doesn’t it bother me more? Maybe a part of me likes that he’s lying. Proves that he’s a scumbag or that I’m important enough to him to lie to, that he cares enough to lie to me. Wants me to like him, isn’t that why we lie? That or fear, but he’s not afraid of me, I’ve got nothing on him now. That politician guy he erased in the picture wouldn’t bother lying to him. He did make a killing on that house. Though for years he couldn’t even get anyone to look at it. A Saudi Arabian prince made an offer on the house once but changed his mind and bought an island instead probably. Finally after years of paying property taxes the size my entire lifetime earnings, Don King, the Godfather of Tacky himself bought it. Figures.


Don King sold Dad's house for $33,000,000
***

- And then Mark said you disinherited us, wrote me and Carey out of the will.

That was IT for me, made me look at everything differently, he told me ‘I love you’ and then disappeared so he never really meant it and then I burned the paper trail to the millions Mom should’ve gotten half of and then we got disinherited?

Actually, Carey and I are still in the will, for like a hundred bucks or something. You have to at least be mentioned in the will or else you can sue the estate. I never did tell Carey she was disinherited. I was waiting for the right moment but when’s the right moment to tell someone that? Mark gets all the money in the new will. Mark said “Dad has a right to do whatever he wants with his money and I’ll respect his wishes.”

- Now Mark probably said it wrong. You misunderstood him. I figured your Mom would give you her money in her will.

Huh? Well, which one is it? Those are three different stories there, make up your mind. Mark got it WRONG or I MISUNDERSTOOD or it IS true and you justified it?

Maybe truth just gets more and more slippery the more you grab at it. One of my fears of getting in touch with Weldon was that he’d think I just wanted his money. I don’t want his filthy lucre. Of course I want his filthy lucre. I’m not an idiot. We’re talking about something like 20 million dollars here. But I don’t want him to think I want it. So I’ve stayed away from even thinking about it. Of course I want money, but I don’t want to want it more than I want a father.

We talk some more about his genes. On one side of his family, he traces it back 5 generations, they all lived over a hundred.
- Well I thought I came here to say goodbye because you’re dying of cancer and now it looks like you’ll probably outlive me.
- This was a nice visit. I've really enjoyed talking with you today. I'm glad you came to see me.
What a nice old guy. I can just see him bouncing grandkids on his knee.
- Say, who are those little blond kids in that picture?
Two adorable towheads sitting on his lap.

There's only one picture that I know of our whole family and in it I'm sitting on his lap. Never happened outside the photo studio. That picture? That’s rewriting history. Sit still. Don't squirm. Smile. It looks nice in the picture but he stood up and spilled me off his lap as soon as the flash popped.

- They're ahhh... Ahhh, her grandkids.
He doesn't remember his girlfriend's name.
Neither do I. Do we both have Alzheimer's?
I feel a little mean so I ask.
- Whose?
- ……..Patricia. Patricia’s grandkids.

We’re standing in the foyer again with the guest book. I sign it and see all the other Hunters lined up on the page. I just write S-K-I-P. No last name.
- Well, this is goodbye I guess.
I still haven't told him everything I want to say.
- I'll walk you to your car.
He wants to see my car? He'll see the 2 huge trunks strapped on top with ratty tarps wrapped around them. He'll see the stained pillow in the back.
- That's okay, I'll say goodbye here.
- Come on, I'll say goodbye at your car.
He strides off leading the way. I don't have to follow him. How far can he get on his own? I can pretend it's not my car, walk right by it, I've never seen that car before.
If he asks “Is that your car?” I can say
“Not That I Know Of. Ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha. Just look at that car, obviously someone from West Palm Beach drives that car.”
I can tell him my $60,000 BMW sports car must've been towed or... or stolen, that's it! While he's on the phone to the police I'll slap my forehead and say “Oh, how silly of me, I drove the Jag today!” and run out. Or...
He stops right at my car. How does he know it’s my car? How dare he assume that this is my car!
- Oh that, ahhh… tarp there? That’s just for the rain you know and we, ahhh, didn’t take it down yet so that’s why it’s, ahhh….
- Wind torn. The wind does that.
- Yeah.
I’m maneuvering in front of him to block the window so he won’t see the stained pillow in the back seat at least. I don’t want him to think I LIVE in the car! It’s almost over and I wanted to tell him the two big things, but I got distracted. I wanted to tell him, Thank you. Thank you for helping me buy my house. Thank you for taking care of my wife Susan’s body after she died. She wanted to donate her body to science. She was that kind of a girl, she wanted to help people, even when she was dead. But I didn’t know about the mountain of paperwork and that you had to do it before someone died if you wanted the body to go to a medical school for that. I had no reserves of strength to fight the system. Weldon came through for me and I don’t think anyone could’ve done it but him. The man’s a bulldog when he wants to be, remember. Maybe I’ll have to see him again to tell him all this stuff.

He reaches out, pulls me into him for a big full body hug. This is no A-frame hug. He tells me
- I STILL love you.
In the rear view mirror an old man with a shock of white hair grows smaller and smaller.

**************

Skip Hunter is a local writer. Though it is his nom de plume it contains clues that point to his real identity.

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